being a mom

Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

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A tattoo is a great way to commemorate a special time or event in your life. And lots of women choose to memorialize their breastfeeding relationship with some permanent ink. But for some women, the breastfeeding relationship can last a long time! Maybe you don’t want to wait until the kid is off the boob before getting your tattoo. So can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding? The answer is a bit complicated, and it may surprise you!

First, a little information about how tattoos actually work. Knowing what you’re getting into is incredibly important.

Tattoo artists use hand-held electric machines fitted with needles to deliver ink into the dermal layer. The dermal layer is the second of the three layers of skin. Epidermis on top, dermis (or dermal) layer in the middle, and then a layer of subcutaneous fat. Tattoo ink is deposited into that middle layer, so it technically doesn’t go under your skin. Tattoos are permanent because they remain walled off in this dermal layer by the body’s own inflammatory processes. That’s why a tattoo that was done properly, with the right equipment and by a skilled artist, stays where it is. Ink used in tattoos can contain synthetic or natural pigments. The FDA regulates inks the same as other cosmetics, because they’re not approved for injection under the skin.

The ink molecules are too large to pass into blood plasma or milk-producing cells. So, the question is: can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

Technically, yes. There is no medical or scientific reason breastfeeding women can’t get tattoos. However, the long answer is a bit more complicated. There is always the risk of infection with any body modification, and tattoos are no different. While it is possible to minimize your risk of infection by choosing a reputable shop that adheres to hygiene protocols and following the after-care instructions, there is still the possibility that your tattoo can become infected. Local infections are easily treated, but systemic infections like tetanus and HIV can occur when a tattoo artist or shop doesn’t adhere to universal safety and hygiene precautions.

Even though it is considered generally safe for nursing moms to get tattooed, you might have a hard time finding a shop that will do it.

Very few professional tattoo artists will knowingly tattoo a breastfeeding woman. Why? When you get a tattoo, you’re essentially injuring your body, and your body then needs time to heal. The healing period after a tattoo can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to months, depending on the size of the piece. And many tattoo artists believe that the body’s ability to heal is impeded in nursing moms. In other words, it’s harder to heal when your body is also working hard to make that liquid gold for your baby.

So can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

{Also read: For the First Time, American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs in on Tattoos for Teens}

While there is no known medical reason a breastfeeding mother can’t get a tattoo, it’s strongly suggested that you wait until the baby is between 9 months to a year or longer. Give your body time to heal after childbirth, and get into a good milk-making rhythm. And no matter when you decide to take the ink plunge, always do your research into the artist and shop you choose, to minimize the risks to yourself and your baby.

(Image: iStock / lolostock)